There is a Story afoot . . .



A story has attacked me . . . not sure where it's from, but I have been posting chapters as they come out of my fingers. Yes, I am still posting on firearms training and my new topic of basic prepping - all links are to the right of the blog, newest posts first on the lists. Feel free to ignore the story posts - they usually start with a chapter number. But, feel free to read the story as well and comment on it - I like how it's turning out so far! Links to the various chapters are at the right under . . .

The Story

Bill

Monday, September 30, 2013

Training Course Review – NRA PPITH Instructor Course

 

I love teaching new instructors! There are a number of reasons for this . . .

They are truly motivated. You simply don’t put in the raw time, the range time and, frankly, the money it takes you, as an individual, to become an instructor unless you are serious about it. This particular course – the NRA Personal Protection in the Home Instructor Course has a couple of requirements.

  • You must be a NRA Basic Pistol Instructor
  • You must successfully complete the live fire qualification requirement of ten, two-round hits in two seconds from the low ready at 21 ft.

There are simply no short cuts to becoming an instructor for the NRA – or any other organization for that matter.

An added bonus this time was that two blogger friends were coming from the east coast to take my course. Old NFO of “Nobody Asked Me” came to my NRA Basic Pistol Instructor course in March and signed up for a return trip. And, “Keads” of “Another Day . . . Another” had been looking to be able to offer additional training for the range he instructs at, also decided to come as well. Both are definitely “shooters” and had good information to share on the range while they were listening to my thoughts on the subject. The bottom line out of exchanges like that is that everyone learns something new!

Another class member was my son Mike. He’s fast becoming a fine shooter and had a 3rd place finish in his latest IDPA outing. Damn he’s quick! And, he’s developing a fine instructor “feel” as well. It does make a dad proud to watch these transitions!

The course was rounded out by Tim – an engineer where I worked years ago and also the owner of a flight training company. Again – broad training experience is a win for everyone.

FRIDAY:

Friday was a day for Keads and I to become “well acquainted”. The NRA has a requirement that each instructor attend their BIT – Basic Instructor Training – every two years. You would think that with only a single candidate in the class you could fly through the information . . . . and you’d be mistaken. We started at 8AM and finally finished up by 3:30PM. The information – the exercises simply take what they take, period. So, we spent the day reviewing the training methods of the NRA and, frankly, it was a great time together. He’s been teaching basic pistol and concealed carry in North Carolina for over 5 years and there’s always something to learn from a new instructor.

After time for both of us to freshen up a bit it was time to go to the airport and pick up Old NFO. Weather delayed him about an hour but by 8PM we were at the local Appleby’s having a fine meal!

SATURDAY:

The proscribed length of time for the PPITH course is 9 hours . . . good luck with that! There is just plain a lot of material to cover. While I do some lecture – the majority is done by assigning the candidates parts of the course – giving them 5-10 minutes to prep and then let them present it to the rest of the candidates. Once complete – we all critique the presenter. I like the process. It gets candidates over their “stage fright” as well as allows them to hear what other instructors see and hear. Everything from where their hands are to how they use the power points and other props to their tone of voice and delivery is reviewed. It is NOT the place for big egos – and that was not an issue for the weekend either.

The second portion of the course is the range work. For the students these candidates are going to be teaching – it is typically their first serious exploration of the use of a firearm for their personal defense. Given that – it is important that the range work go well. If their first exposure to dedicated range work learning skills to defend themselves is poorly conducted, poorly structured or – God forbid – flat out unsafe, many will simply choose not to continue to practice the basic skills required to defend themselves.

So, Saturday ended with a full run-through of Sunday’s range work, but with SIRT pistols. I know you all are getting tired of me singing the praises of the SIRT pistol . . . . tough! What a great tool. Each candidate ran each drill from beginning to end, meaning from taking a shooter to the line to confirming their firearm was empty and properly reholstered before they left the line. For one candidate, it was his first time actually running a range exercise. By Saturday’s end, everyone was clear on how the next day’s range work would go and we wrapped up about 4:30 PM.

SUNDAY:

Sunday began with the candidates taking their exams and our reviewing and grading them. Passing for instructors is 90% and all exceeded that number. A final review of what was coming for the day took a bit of time and then we headed for the range.

I set the candidates up in three lanes and just started with numbered 9” plates, 6 per lane on their target frame. We ran each drill 4 times with one mag per drill. With 4 candidates, things truly ran very, very smooth. All I had to do was to release the line to each new “instructor” as we ran through the drills – and take photos as I acted the part of RSO.

Skills covered were simple marksmanship from the low-ready; shooting using a low barricade over the top, to the right and to the left; shooting around a corner both to the left and the right; and, shooting rapidly with more than one shot; dominant hand only and support hand only. Both “instructors” and shooters did a fine job.

As an instructor watching new instructor candidates I am looking for everything from their basic skills to their ability to be heard, to “command” a range and for consistent use of defined vocabulary. And, while it sounds like simple drills – the repetition, the newness of the experience and the candidate’s own personal expectations of themselves make it much more stressful than one would expect.

The very last drill was the candidate’s range qualification. The NRA course calls for a 9” plate to be used – I hate that. I use my standard student target set at 21 feet. The drill was 10 engagements, 2-rounds each in 2-seconds on the “UP” command. One of the beliefs I have – and stress to new candidates – is that you shouldn’t expect a student to do something you either cannot do or are unwilling to do. So . . . . I went to the line and had my son run the drill for me. No pressure . . . .

Thankfully, I did hit 20 out of 20 – even though one round was by the closest whisker! I’ll still take it! I’ll show you my target – they can share on their own blogs their targets if they wish – everyone did just fine!

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Everyone helped tear down the range and we headed back inside for the wrap-up.  We took some time for feedback on how the course felt to them. I had certified instructors sitting in front of me – simply too valuable of a resource not to use to find out what they liked, what they felt could be improved and any other thoughts they had. Virtually all of them loved how the SIRT pistols played into things and all are looking at placing orders for their own.

And that was that – done, finished, outta there . . . . what a great weekend.

Only to be topped by an early supper at the local Amana Colonies to our south that feature good old fashion home cooked meals. Old NRO, Keads, Mike and I ate too much, had some great pie and then called the weekend “well done”!

Thanks for coming guys, it was great! Looking forward to the next one!

A video of the course qualification:

 

 

A couple of yours truly via Old NFO:

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Range Trip–9/24/13 Steel Shoot . . . Cameras, Lessons and Fun

 

Last night was our final scheduled steel shoot of the year.  It was tough to see towards the last run – summer has passed for another year and early evenings are upon us.

The guns I used were my favorite range bag gun - a Ruger 22/45, my carry weapon - a Glock 17 and my alternate carry weapon – a Springfield 1911.  It was a fun night with an “OK” run, a crash or two and the just plain “clean but slow”.

I used the Contour camera to film this for a couple reasons.  It’s one thing to come to this blog and “talk” about a range trip . . . . but something entirely different to actually show you the runs.  The value in that for me are numerous:

  • It actually shows me the run.  You can’t “imagine” when you film it, you just record it.  That clearly shows me – and you – those things I’ve done well and those I’ve really blown.  We both learn.
  • Cameras keep you honest.  I’m human – I can tell myself stories just like anyone else.  When I talk about my grip with the Glock in a bit, honestly – that was something I’d didn’t “see” while I was shooting because my focus was on my front site – and not watching my grip.  The camera is an extra set of eyes that allows me to watch something over and over and over. . . .
  • It also keeps me honest with you.  Most of you don’t know me from Adam.  Yet many of you take much of what I say and teach to heart.  You deserve to see me at my best and worst.
  • Finally – on the off chance I have the “mother of all runs” – and I film it – you can be damn sure tootin’ you’ll see that sucker over and over and over . . .

So, let’s look things over in a bit more detail.  First, the stage.  We are a very small Ikes chapter and we only have two lanes on our range where we can set up stages.  On this particular night a total of three shooters showed up – heavy sigh.  Good news – lots of runs. Bad news – only three shooters.  So, we only set up a single stage and this was it’s layout:

Stage Layout 2

Nothing tricky – two 8” rounds, two 8” x 10” rectangles, one red 8” round stop plate.  All are mounted at 4 ft.  We have a shooters box you step into to load and shoot from.  The orange panel directly in front is your aim point for low ready.

.22 cal Complete Run

My best .22 cal run was 6.15 seconds.  Notice the things that went well – only a single pickup on the stop plate.  My grip was firm with no adjustment between plates.  The pace was smooth and the movement was sure.  Only thing to do to make this run faster is to drive to the next plate quicker.  You can do this by being confident of your shot and moving your eyes first to the next plate, then bringing your sight picture into your eyes.  Not a bad run but lots of room for improvement.

.22 cal “Malfunction Run”

Plenty of malfunction clearing practice in this run.  Still – I completed the run in less than the 30 par time. 

Yep, some runs just plain go to crap.  Stay focused, work each malfunction and stay in the “fight”.  And, if you have a single run or multiple runs that look like this – hey, everyone has one – get over it.  Make sure your weapon in clean, your mags aren’t defective and just get on with it.  Your next run will be awesome!

9mm “Shootin’ It Dry” Run

There are some runs that just plain don’t jell.  Here is one such run from last night.

The biggest thing I noticed here is that I “adjust” my grip frequently.  NOT GOOD!  That is the whole thing of “follow through” while engaging a target.  This would imply I need to “firm” up my grip a bit.  Things just never felt “good” on this run – from sight picture to grip.  I’d tell you why if I knew – need to spend a bit more time with the film.

9mm “Clean the Plates” run

When you have a crappy run or drill, you just need to gather yourself and, if need be, slow down and succeed first – then work on building speed.  As you can see this run was “slow” – 9.74 seconds.  But, I cleaned the plates and will build from here next time.

.45 “Clean the Plates” run

By the time we got to the .45 – it was getting dark quick so only a couple passes.  Here is a clean one at 14.33 seconds.  I had slowed down a bit, had a tougher time acquiring the plates in the lower light but still ran it clean.  Notice a couple things – my grip is once again firm for the whole run, no adjustment.  This was due to a couple things – I was “working” on it and a 1911 has much more mass than a Glock 17 so the recoil is much less allowing for better control.

So there you go – a night of fun with some good guys and a couple of videos that we all can learn from.  If you’re a new shooter, consider a camera you can wear.  There are a number that start for under $100 and, of course, there are some that cost much, much more.  Regardless – you can learn a tremendous amount by “looking over your shoulder” to see how you are doing.  And, once it’s in a file – you can take your time, study from it and pick up those little things that can help you make real progress.

And, if you’re an instructor – it’s good to let your students see the good, the bad and even the ugly once in a while.  We’re all learning – every range trip.  Don’t be shy about sharing your experiences!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Training – Which Comes First? Carry gun or Range gun?

 

Phone Rings: Hello?

Nice Sounding Lady: Yes, are you the one Bob says gives gun classes?

Me: Yep, that’s me, can I help you?

NSL: Yes, I’m buying my first gun today and I want to sign up for your next class.

My next class is in about a month, it’s a NRA Basic Pistol class and exceeds all requirements for a carry permit in Iowa. I share these details with her.

Me: Can I ask what gun you are buying?

NSL: It’s a nice little Bersa .380. I like it because it’s small, I think it will be easy to carry – I just want to learn to shoot it and get my carry permit.

Me: Have you considered anything a bit larger? Something along the lines of a Glock 19, it’s a compact 9mm?

NSL: I’ve looked at them, but I’m going to get the Bersa this afternoon.

And, with that the conversation was essentially over. She’d made her decision about her very first firearm without a single range trip – but by simply “trying” different handguns in the store. So, provided she follows through, I’ll see her next month or in a private session for her and her husband which she also inquired about – time will tell.

Fast forward to a thread on a Facebook page for trainers this past week. One of the instructors has a person that had decided to get either a S&W Bodyguard with a laser or a Ruger LCP with a laser. They had absolutely no interest in any other firearm, just these two. Again, the person was a brand new shooter and was looking for a carry gun – he was wondering what other instructors would recommend. Most advice mirrored mine – start with something a bit “bigger” and then, as their skills improve, they could easily sell the gun and purchase one of the subcompacts. The person was having none of it.

So, let’s chat a bit about which comes first – a training (range) gun, or a carry gun.

Some definitions to make sure we are on the same page. A “training” or “range” gun is that gun you are going to take to all of your classes. It’s the one you use to learn grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press. It’s the one that, hopefully, you’ll send a thousand rounds or more down range during your first year to learn your new skill and to get “comfortable”. They need to be built like a brick crapper – able to handle this kind of punishment.

You have more options with your carry weapon. It DOES need to go “bang” EVERY TIME” you press the trigger. It does not need to withstand the rigors of a multiple heavy duty training sessions. For folks that carry subcompacts like the lady that called me – they are a nice choice for concealment and personal protection. But, I believe they fall short when called upon for rigorous training. That said – it takes time and experience to be able to reliably switch between “range” gun and “carry” gun.

And, for those who just take a course, get a carry permit, buy a subcompact and begin to carry . . . . with no additional training . . . . there are more holes than I can count in that “training” approach.

The ideal situation – “range” gun and “carry” gun are the same. There are the typical arguments – “It’s to big”, “I’m too small to hide all that gun!”, “It’s too heavy!”. Yep, we’ve heard them all. What is typically meant is that they have a crappy belt or a cheap holster or they haven’t sized their pants for IWB carry or they’re trying to jam it in a purse that needs to be designed for concealed carry. But, typically, it has little to do with the actual size of the gun.

If you are a new shooter and looking to go to the gun store to buy your first gun there are some other options you might want to consider first.

Talk to your chosen instructor or a local friend that carries or, at least shoots a pistol and try out some of their different handguns. There’s a big gap between the experience of dry fire in a store, and live fire on the range. Try your gun first.

Wrap your head around your need for training. The skillset involved in protecting yourself, your family or your friends with a handgun is much broader than simply getting your carry permit. A good goal is a training course of some type each year. This will keep you learning and make sure you have solid, guided trigger time.

As with any new skill – from riding a bike to downhill skiing – it takes practice. The art of personal defense has multiple skills involved – all of which takes range time and classroom time. You need to invest the time and the dollars to purchase good equipment and ammunition – period. Remember, if the situation arises where you need to defend yourself, your family or a friend – you only get one chance.

Finally – poor gun purchases are typically pretty “forgiving”. Provided you stick to well-known manufacturers – Glock, Springfield, Ruger, M&P, S&W – to name a very few, the resale value of your handgun seldom drops unless the gun is damaged. Get a range gun, learn the skills, then transition to different carry weapon if you feel you need to. You’ll lose little – if anything – in the sale.

So . . . what’s the answer to which comes first, a “training” gun or a “carry” gun . . .

. . . . you simply must train FIRST. Once you have integrated your new skillset into your life, you can find a carry weapon that is, perhaps, better suited to “carry”.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Basic Prepping - Lost Bounty

 

Along the west side of the drive that leads to my home my neighbors have four apple trees that are absolutely bursting with fruit this year. Last week my wife ran short of apples that she gives to the horses she trains and she asked our neighbor if she could pick a some to take with her – we were given the green light to pick as many as we wish and in the days following a couple sacks appeared below the tree containing those apples the had fallen.

In years past the vast majority of the fruit on these trees simply returned to the earth as fertilizer for the next years crop – this year will be no different. And that brought about this post – “Lost Bounty”.

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I literally straddle the generation that moved from a primarily agrarian society to one that depended on manufacturing to acquire money to purchase food rather than raise it. My Grandparents moved from the city of Saginaw in Michigan to the small community of Birch Run and purchased an 80 acre farm at the very beginning of the Great Depression. It was a fortunate move for while old friends were not always well fed, the farm provided food and crops for sale. My grandfather died in the late 40s and my Grandmother eventually sold the farm and moved into the “city” – a community of 1,250. My mother made the transition away from the farm, working as a clerk in a grocery, then as a hairdresser out of our home and finally retiring as a postal clerk. My father left the farm early and became one of the flood of workers that built GM from the early 30s until his death if 1957. My time on a farm can be measured in days of my life and little more.

That said, my wife and I enjoyed the fall tradition of “putting up” the garden and for most of our early years of marriage, a handful of weekends were dedicated to preserving fruit and vegetables that were either homegrown or purchased by the bushel from local growers. This included – literally – bushels of peaches, pears, plumbs and apples as well as pan fulls of green beans and tomatoes. The primary method of preservation was canning and that’s what I want to briefly touch on here. This is NOT a primer on canning but a brief introduction of the two primary methods that are commonly used. There are dozens of books available that will fill in the “blanks” for you – simply search Amazon for “canning”.

Canning utilizes two primary methods – a “Hot Water Bath” or a “Pressure Canner” . Let’s go over the basic equipment and what is typically “put up” by each method.

Hot Water Bath

This method takes minimal equipment:

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There is a large (and sometimes smaller) cooker, a jar carrier that is lowered into the water, a colander, funnel, tongs and a tool to grasp the hot jars and lift them out of the water bath.

You also need canning jars, typically either pint or quart sizes are used.

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The jars are sterilized by placing them into a boiling bath for around 5 minutes. The lids are placed in a separate pot of boiling water as well.

Your fruit or vegetables are prepared, the jars are emptied and set on the rack and then filled with whatever you are canning. Once they are filled, the lid is secured to the jar and they are lowered back into the hot water and brought to a slow boil for a defined amount of time depending on what is in the jar.

Once that time is reached, each jar is lifted out and set aside to cool. As they cool you will hear a “Pop!” which is the lid sealing. At that point you have a sterile food product fully sealed in a glass jar. No refrigeration is needed for storage which can easily see you through until the next year’s harvest is ready for preservation.

Pressure Canner

For items that require processing at higher temperatures – typically meats and some types of vegetables – a Pressure Canner is used.

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The higher temperatures are achieved by elevating the internal pressure of the cooker a couple of pounds. The required pressure is dependent on the type of food that is being preserved. In days gone by venison, beef, pork, yard raised chickens, rabbit and a host of other types meats were canned in this fashion. A nice side effect of this type of preservation is that the meat is fully cooked when you are finished, this makes food preparation fairly easy.

I realize everyone is busy and canning is time consuming. Frankly, with just the two of us today – we have passed along the cases and cases and cases of canning jars and equipment to our kids or the kids of friends. We eat much less today than when we had a full house!

The advantage to you – when considering basic prepping – is that it is a cost effective way to extend your stores, the final product is not dependent on refrigeration for preservation and there is always an abundance of “extra” tomatoes or green beans or apples or pears or peaches . . . . to name just a very few items that are typically available in and around a community. It is truly a “Lost Bounty”. Please, learn this simple skill. You can purchase a beginning canning kit for well under $100 and for another $100 you can have enough jars of “Lost Bounty” to stretch your budget and provide a good tasting addition to any meal.

And, rather than letting good food simply turn into fertilizer – you can feed your family with very little extra effort.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Just the Basics - Safe . . . . Really??

 

Safe: not able or likely to be hurt or harmed in any way

not in danger

not able or likely to be lost, taken away, or given away

not involving or likely to involve danger, harm, or loss

Our town held a community meeting last night entitled “Keeping our kids safe”. It’s been a topic of interest for small and large communities alike for the past 9 months since the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. And please, make no mistake – it was a tragedy and evil incarnate – true, soul sucking, straight from the depths of hell evil walked the earth that day. I realize it’s not very PC to acknowledge “evil” yet I believe it exists. There were “medical findings” and a broken home and violent computer games . . . but, in under all the trappings of the 21st century I find the cause much simpler to understand – evil walked the earth that day, in that soul and took lives, pure and simple.

That said, there is a tremendous need to “do something” on the part of parents and schools, something that will keep the kids “safe”, something to protect them from harm.

Notice that the definition above uses words like “not able” or “not likely” to be hurt or harmed or placed in danger or to be lost or taken away or to be involved in danger or harm. The definition attempts to walk the fine line between certainty – “not able” – and something a bit less certain – “not likely”. This is a very important difference that applies both to parents looking to their kids safety and to a defensive shooter looking to their carry weapon to keep them safe. Let’s chat a bit about that.

There’s a rather frank saying about life in general . . . “life’s a bitch!” And so it is. It comes with NO GUARANTEES – period, including a guarantee of safety. When a parent sends their children to school – in the world of the 21st century – there are even fewer guarantees than there were, let’s say a half century ago when I was in school. (sigh, half century . . . . really????) For “younger readers” let me describe life for a kid in school between 1956 and 1968 – though things were changing (and not for the better) during the last half of the 60s.

You WERE raised by the community. Unlike the illusion Hillary Clinton speaks about when she mentions that it “takes a village” – school kids of my time truly were raised by the community. Any adult had full license to discipline a kid, up to and including a good smack on the ass. (And please – there’s a difference between BEATING a kid and a smack on the ass – a very useful tool that has been totally abandoned in today’s world). Once said discipline had been dispensed – the parent was called immediately – insuring an additional smack on the ass when the kid got home.

Teachers had the power. Corporal punishment was the norm – not a perversion. Or you sat in the corner, embarrassed before your classmates. You learned that adults were to be respected if for no other reason than they had managed to survive life to an “old age” while the verdict on YOU was still in doubt.

YOU were expected to handle bullies, not your teacher, not your principle and not your mom and dad. I’ve talked about Jack before – he was my “right of passage”. Virtually every kid learned that at some point you had to put on your big boy/girl panties and handle your own shit.

For boys – knives were COOL. Everyone was proud of their first knife – be it the blue Cub Scout knife or a Pear Knife – you had taken the very first step towards manhood with that knife.

Hunting season meant a better than even chance that there was a shotgun in the locker of most boys. What – leave them in your car?? Are frickin’ kidding me?!?!?!? It might get stolen. No sir, I’m gonna lock that puppy in my locker and make sure it’s safe.

We have lost so much . . . I saw young parents – many friends with my daughter throughout her time in school – fearful for the safety of their kids. Afraid to have them walk to school, afraid to have them play outside by themselves, afraid to let them out of their sight. While we are a small, out of the way little burg, and the chances of something happening are oh so very low . . . . still . . .

They assure their kids that they and the teachers and the administration will keep them “safe” . . . in other words – they lie to them.

Our school has chosen to take the ALICE training – Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Escape. It does a good job of incorporating the core of Cooper’s Color Code or the NRA’s Levels of Awareness. Be Alert to something that is “off”, Lockdown the facility, Inform the building what is going on, Counter an attacker via barricades, lock doors (anything but huddling is a corner!) or Escape if possible. Some staff have taken force-on-force training to see what it like to be attacked.

They have not taken the step of armed staff – and that seems unlikely. It is just too far a leap given today’s fear of guns. Sadly, I’ve reach that age where I and a couple more in attendance were the only ones that had a memory of bringing a shotgun into a school for safe storage. We have lost so much.

So where is this headed? If you have school age kids – be honest with them. While teachers and staff will do their best to protect them – witness the staff and their tremendous sacrifice at Sandy Hook – there is much the kid can do themselves. Work out a plan with them – YOU, not the school. Go to their school, walk the halls with them, walk the rooms with them, “game” various situations. Be proactive as a parent. I hate this word, but . . . “empower” your kid with choices – up to and including picking up anything at hand and attacking if that is their last resort. Our schools and our society have done their best to turn society and our children into victims, it pisses me off.

As for YOU, as a defensive shooter – a person who carries every day - life is a demanding teacher. There are NO guarantees that this isn’t the night your home is invaded, or that tomorrow your bank won’t be robbed while you’re doing your business, or someone targets your new SUV at the stoplight . . . . it’s an endless list.

The number seems to vary so widely, but somewhere between 500,000 and 2 MILLION times a year a firearm is used to stop a crime. Taking the small number – 10,000 times per year per state. However you wrap your head around it – while 99.9% of the time life leaves you alone – there is evil and it will take a swing at you when you least expect it.

Safe?? Really?? I’d rather hang my hat on “unlikely” and be prepared for “OH SHIT!!”

. . . . been to the range lately??

Monday, September 16, 2013

20 – Meetings and a glimpse . . .

 

“Demon 62, White Knight 45 – you kids seem to have royally pissed of a bunch of folks down there. Suggest you enter your shittin’ and gittin’ phase of the operation. Pickup LZ Tango, pop smoke when on site.”

“Roger that White Knight – out” replied E – and they were outta there. Deke on point, E checking their six on the way out. LZ Tango was about three clicks North East – seemed farther now than it had at 2AM this morning.

“Hussle ass there Deke, I suspect at least a couple of our guests will want to pay us a visit as soon as they can scramble up our little hill here!”

“I’m booking E, I’m . . . . BBBUUUURRRRRAAAAAPPPPPPPP! E noticed she was covered with a pink mist. About that time a couple tangos came charging around a bend in their path. E dropped to a knee and hammered the first two - the remaining quickly drew up short and hauled ass to cover.

“White Knight 45, Demon 62 – SHITSTORM, I SAY AGAIN, SHITSTORM!!: 311053 BY 74025 . . . . 311053 BY 74025. MAN DOWN, MAN DOWN”

“Roger Demon 62, Cobra45 lifting off, on site 10 minutes, one zero minutes”

“Roger that – gonna need a change of panties when we get back.”

“DEKE!! GOD DAMN IT – DEKE!!” E saw nothing move, he was crumpled where he fell.

“E . . . . E!!” Brad had heard her conversation from his room. He had a pretty good idea where it was headed . . . He had entered the spare room and it was obvious she was currently “elsewhere”!

“E!! Wake up E, you’re safe!” E was calling in the Cobra – urging it to hurry. Brad reached for her foot that was sticking out from beneath the comforter and firmly tapped it . . . “E! You’re safe E . . . You’re safe!”

Ann poked her nose around the corner . . . “She ok hunny?” E’s voice had been loud enough to wake Ann as well. “She’s OK mom – just a dream . . . not a pleasant one I suspect.”

“E! You’re safe E . . . . You’re safe!” And with one more firm tap E sat straight up, her hands up in a defensive position, eyes wild yet taking in the situation. Brad could see her consciousness return. She relaxed, took a deep breath and rubbed her face with her hands.

“Sorry . . . seems to be more than a few ghosts hanging around . . . sorry I woke you both.” E was embarrassed and angry with herself . . . “When is this going to let up?” She thought. It was not the first time she relived Deke’s death . . . it would not be her last time by any stretch of her imagination.

“No worries sweetie . . . Brad has had his shares of nightmares as well. Are you OK? Can I get you anything?” Ann had sat with Brad on more than one night as he dealt with his “demons” as he called them.

“No – thanks. I think I’ll just get up for a bit and get a drink . . . I’m fine – really.” E rolled back the comforter and got up, heading for the kitchen.

“Take your time – no problem. Brad, keep her company . . . and I’m going to say good night to you two!” With that Ann headed for her room while E and Brad headed for the kitchen.

“Got anything a bit stronger than water?” E asked. Brad smiled – “Your lucky night, I bought a new bottle of Jameson’s when I got home. There’s more than enough left to take the edge off.” He reached into the cupboards for a couple glasses, grabbed a bit of ice for each and poured a generous portion in each glass.

“I heard you yell for Deke – he was your spotter?” Brad sipped and watched. Pain paint E’s face, her eyes tearing up . . . “Yep, that he was. Our first hit – first time in the field . . . Fuck!!” E held her glass, sipping from time to time. “I don’t want to forget him . . . but damn . . . I really hate to relive that instant over and over and over . . . I just do not seem to be able to let it go.” She looked at Brad – eyes tear-filled and her face almost pleading.

“I know . . . I know. It’s just going to take time . . . I call them demons. They visit, hammer you and then wait until the next time you’re vulnerable. They just go with the territory – ya know?” Brad had his share of visits from demons as well. He’d talked to some of the old heads – they all had them. And they all lived with them . . . or they didn’t. Suicide was never a path he found attractive – but some of his friends had, only to become demons themselves.

“I know, I’ve chatted with Gramps more than once . . . . and he still spends time in Fallujah – and that happened over 45 years ago. I just feel so helpless – I know Deke’s going to die – and I can’t do a fuckin’ thing about it.” And there it was . . . for both of them. They were not the first to deal with their demons – and they would not be the last. Nor would Deke be the only memory to disturb her sleep – they were both still young.

They finished their Jameson’s and returned to their respective beds – hoping for a few more hours of sleep.

I am a Devil-Dog I'm marching on, I am a warrior and this is my song.!!” Blared from E’s phone, the opening lyrics of a song from another war in another time. But, it had struck a chord in her and she had made it her ring-tone. It was an interesting “conversation piece”. E’s hand flew from under the comforter and located the phone on the night stand next to her bed.

“Rowley!” she barked – she noticed it was the butt-crack of dawn, who the hell was calling her??

“Sleeping in girl??” Gramps sounded way too awake . . . “You turning soft in civilian life marine??”

“No sir – long night. Hell, I can barely see any light out there Gramps, what the hell time is it anyway?” E was pulling herself upright trying to read the time on her watch.

“I let you sleep in kid, it’s nearly 0600. There may be some shit headed your way . . . not sure how far things will spread, but I wanted to make sure you were updated on what’s going on in Minneapolis. Is Brad there?” Gramps had been watching the growing swarm/riot in downtown Minneapolis since 3 AM when Charlie Franklin had called him. It didn’t look like it was going to grow the way the D.C. swarm had – but it had the same “touch and feel”. “Why don’t you go grab him and then let’s talk about the day, alright?”

“Yes sir – wait one!” E threw on some sweats and headed to Brad’s room. A firm knock was met with a grunt and a “Who the hell’s there – it’s still dark out!!”

“Yep, that it is.” E said, “But Gramp’s on the phone – Minneapolis is evidently going to shit and he wants to update us and plan the day. Sounds like we need to get our day moving.” E had just finished speaking when Brad opened his door – wearing jogging shorts and a sweatshirt and gaining consciousness quickly. They headed for the kitchen table. E put her phone between them and touched the “speaker” button on the screen.

“Alright Gramps, we’re up and rolling . . . what the hell is going on?” Brad moved to the coffee maker as Gramps began his briefing.

“I got a call from an old friend about 3 AM this morning – Charlie Franklin, you’ll meet him later today. He has friends on the police force in Minneapolis – hell, more than that – his son’s a Captain on their SWAT team. Anyway, they’ve been having a hell of a time with power coming into the city. There’s a shitload of reasons, but the bottom line is that the good folks of the city expect the lights to go on when they flip a switch . . . and that has been a might iffy prospect for nearly a month now. And it’s not likely to get better. It’s affected everything from heat to elevators to water coming out of their faucets. I guess tonight was the breaking point. It’s not as bad as D.C. – but it surly has the potential to grow, and grow quickly. I need a couple things from you two – I need you to meet with the folks at DT – they have a “shipment” for us. I want you two to take a tour, meet their President and former owner and then look over their plant. I just want you to get a “lay of the land” so to speak.”

“Then I want you to head up to Cambridge – it’s about 45 miles north of the cities. Linda’s there with the friend that she went to the BWCA with. They’re “out” and back at his house. She was going to fly home later today but I don’t want her traveling alone and I sure the hell don’t want her near Minneapolis – I want you to go get her and bring her home with you. She’d have to drive through the middle of the cities to get to the airport – and there’s no way in hell I want her to do that. You two clear?”

“Yes sir – no problem. Just what is this “shipment” you’re talking about? How the hell are we supposed to get it back home, the Jeep’s just a little short on space Gramps.” E was trying to figure out what he had in mind and how they could shuffle things around, especially adding Linda to the mix – it was going to be tight!

“It’ll be fine E, you’ll see once you get to DT. You guys have anything else with you besides your sidearms?” Gramps could feel them looking at each other.

Brad spoke towards E’s phone – “Yes sir, a couple of M4s and half dozen mags. We should be able to handle pretty much anything that should come our way.”

“Sounds good. Honestly, I don’t think this will spread much past the central part of the city . . . this time. Come summer – well, Minneapolis isn’t the only place having these problems. Chicago and St. Louis is hot on their heels – not to mention virtually any city with over a million people. It the shit doesn’t hit the fan this summer, it’ll just be plain dumb luck – and that can’t last for ever. Regardless, get your butts moving – you have a meeting at DT at 0800 sharp – and the president is a real stickler for folks being on time. Give me a call when you’re headed towards Linda, I would think you’ll be rolling that way by 10:00 or so. I’ll call her; tell her to stay put and what the plans are. Depending on how things go you can head for home early evening or first thing in the morning. Questions?” His voice didn’t invite “questions” – not that E or Brad had any.

“No sir, we’re rolling. Call you when we are rolling towards Linda. Have a good morning Gramps.” E was already up, headed towards her room and a shower. Brad was moving too.

“Alright kids, talk to you later.” As Gramps ended the call and they got their day started.

E glanced at her watch – 06:15 . . . “You up for a quick run, I really need to stretch out the kinks after yesterday.” E had gotten in the habit of a run in the morning to heat her muscles, to help rebuild those parts of her body that had been hammered by the IED.

“Sounds like a plan, I could use a stretch too – see you in 5?” With that both threw on their running gear and headed out for a run. The miles went easily for both setting an easy 8 minute pace. Four miles later they were coming up the driveway – both feeling much more awake and “looser” after a day in the car yesterday. A couple quick showers and they were ready to roll. Coming out to the kitchen again, they smelled fresh bacon cooking. “MMMMMmmmm . . . bacon!” Thought E.

“Morning Ann – you really didn’t need to fix breakfast, we could have grabbed something on the way to DT.” That said, E’s mouth was already watering!

“No problem – in fact Charlie called me already this morning, asked if I could come in with you two. So, I thought while I was up, may as well make sure we started our day off right.” Ann grabbed plates, moved some bacon on each and added a good helping of scrambled eggs and shredded cheese, a couple slices of toast and set them down next to large mugs of coffee. They all ate in silence. E noticed the absence of Hank and smiled, “Sleepin’ in” she thought. She suspected he’d be up soon enough and headed off to another school day. The thought was no sooner in her head than he rolled into the kitchen. A plate was found – bacon and eggs added along with a large glass of juice and milk.

By 07:30 the food was done, coffee pot empty and everyone was headed for the door. Hank for school and track practice and Ann, E and Brad for Defense Technologies. It was going to be an interesting day.

The office of Charlie Franklin, President and former owner of Defense Technologies.

“Morning Charlie – you ready for us?” Ann had poked her head around the corner of the door that lead into Charlie Franklin’s office.

Charlie turned his gaze from his monitor and looked towards Ann, “I am, see if you can scare up a pot of coffee and a few donuts. Have everyone take a seat around the table, I’ll be with you in is sec.” His hands finished their work at the keyboard and grabbing a notebook he rose from the desk, headed toward the far end of his office and his “guests”.

Charlie Franklin’s life had taken a significant detour nearly 8 months back when he’d received a call from the man he owed his life to – Earl Franks. He hadn’t heard a word from Earl for nearly a year when suddenly he’d appeared at his office door fully unannounced. Earl had saved his life a handful of decades ago when he had led a Rifle Company during the second battle for Fallujah and since he’d become a true friend.

Fallujah – November 2004

What a cluster fuck that had started out as. He was a “seasoned” 1st Lieutenant but not in the way Sargent Earl Franks was. And, like any professional NCO – Earl became Charlie’s mentor, not that they had much time together. Charlie had been in command for only a couple of months. They’d been handed some pretty tough missions but everyone knew Operation “the dawn” was going to be a bitch! Every street, every compound, every house in every compound was waiting to send you home in a bag. Two days in they had been assigned a night raid to clear a small compound where a suspected al-Queda leader was holed up (of course, “they” said that about every compound that was raided). The entry team was stacked, the breach team in place with Charlie and Earl right behind them. The compound door was blown and his company pour in – a third broke right, a third left and the remainder headed straight for the squat set of three buildings across the compound. They took fire immediately with the sound of “Medic!” being heard from both the left and right. Charlie, Earl and a squad hit the door of the center building.

BBRRRRAAAAAAAPPPPP!! A burst from an AK rang in their ears – the room dark yet still visible in the black and green of the NVG monotube each was wearing. The muzzle flash flooded the tube with light making it useless for a handful of seconds while their other eye went from dark to blinding light to dark again. There was a dull “thud” of something hitting a wall followed by assorted “clunks” as it bounced off the couple pieces of furniture in the room.

“GRANADE!!” . . . . BBRRUUUUMMMMMMPPPP! And 1st Lieutenant Charlie Franklin’s tour ended as everything below his right knee simply exploded is white pain.

“Clear this fuckin place – now!” Screamed Earl – noticing he probably had taken more than a few chunks of metal based on the number of white hot lances of pain he was feeling in his thighs. And his LT was cussing up a storm – he’d more than likely taken the brunt of the explosion. Earl moved towards Charlie – “How’s ya doin’ LT – you’re screamin’ like a baby!” “Fuck you Sargent! I think I lost a chunk of my leg – Damn it! It!” Charlie was doing his self-assessment and quickly discovered that things did not feel “right” from his kneecap down. “Fuck!! Not good! Not Good!” Charlie said to Earl.

Earl’s men moved forward through the warren that was this shitty little compound. Sporadic bursts from M4s – and a few from AKs – sounded for the next few minutes. They provided cover for Earl to do his own assessment – “FUCK! “ though Earl. “Well LT, you screwed the pooch on this one – hang in there sir, hang in there!” Earl reached for his front left molle pack and ripped out one of the CATs he wore. Most wore one – for themselves. Earl, responsible for the Marines in his company – always carried three. He opened it up and worked it up the Charlie’s leg, finally getting it completely above all the damage he could feel. He cinched it “finger tight” then turned the windless until it felt good and tight. There was not time to be particular – a person could bleed out in a couple minutes with a wound like this – tighter was better.

“Command – Boomer 62, Boomer 01 down, request immediate Dustoff . . . say again, Boomer 01 down, request immediate Dustoff – over!”

“Boomer 62 – Command, understand Boomer 01 down. Any other casualties? Over!”

“Roger command, at least three known at this time. It’s still pretty hot here but our need is immediate for 01, say again, need is immediate.”

“Understand Boomer 62, Dustoff is lifting off as we speak – Location? “

“Location 332056 by 434553, 332056 by 434553. There’s an open park about a tenth of a klick to our northwest for extraction – provided you can get in. I have IR IFF – have Dustoff request verification!”

“Roger that Boomer – ETA 15 minutes – out.”

“You’re ride’s comin’ Sir – hang in there!” Earl’s squad leader returned - “Compound is secure Sargent – we took three casualties – leg wounds mostly, the medics are on it. Four raghead KIA. Made a shitload of noise though Sarge – sure to draw attention. How’s the LT?”

“Dustoff is inbound, I’ll update them on our other casualties. Gather the company together, we’re headed for the park about a klick to our northeast – I suspect we’ll “draw attention” – can’t be helped. We need the park secure. Let’s get our shit together and head that way!”

“Command – Boomer 62.”

“Go Boomer 62.”

“Total casualties count four, say again four. Leg wounds but the LT is critical, I say again, critical.”

“Boomer 62 – roger that, 4 casualties – they’re headed your way!”

Night, in enemy territory is an “uncomfortable” feeling. Night – in Anbar province – beginning the penetration of Fallujah with jihadi’s all-around willing to collect their 72 virgins – well, that was enough to make anyone’s butt pucker! Their destination was close but exposed. They needed to do this extraction quick so the Company could get their wounded to safety and then press on into the city. “No rest for the wicked” thought Earl as he lifted his LT into a fireman’s carry and headed out the door! “Damn my ass hurts – must be going soft!”

The company gathered then exited and moved across the street and east towards the park. A slight bend and they were there.

“Corporal – send out a couple squads to secure a perimeter, we’ll hang back here with the wounded until we have inbound confirmation. We’ll move to the center, I’ll flash IFF and then we’ll see if we can get their asses outta here before the whole fuckin’ world crashes in!” Earl was less than happy with their current situation – yet it was what it was.

“Roger that Sargent” his corporal said as he trotted off and made assignments.

“Boomer 62 – Dustoff, Squawk IR IFF” While Dustoff pilots are absolutely committed to bring out every wounded Marine – they aren’t stupid. The pilot was using the Infra-Red Identification Friend or Foe system to insure Boomer 62 was, indeed, in the park below. The night was hairy enough without walking into a death-trap.

Earl put Charlie down, grabbed the IFF unit off his molle and aimed it at the sound of the helicopter. It consisted of a high-power IR laser that was easily seen in the NVG goggles both pilots were wearing providing an easy method of confirmation.

“Ident count is three Boomer 62” The pilot confirmed he had seen three individual flashes of IR light. “Roger that Dustoff, LZ secure but we are sure to have visitors on their way.” Time was an enemy – longer exposure meant increased likelihood of a RPG up the ass of the inbound Blackhawk.

“Understood Boomer 62, coming in hot and locked and loaded.” While the Dustoff Blackhawk had all the featured of the most advanced ambulance, it was also armed with SAWs on each door as well a fully armed crew on board. In years past Dustoff choppers were officially “unarmed” which meant that the crew typically carried personal weapons, but there was no real firepower to bring to bear if the need arose. Things had changed in Iraq. While two SAWs hardly made the Blackhawk a gunship, it gave them the ability to suppress enemy fire should the need arise.

Earl heard the Blackhawk roar in, finally seeing the equipment lighting inside the main bay and in the cockpit. He picked up the LT and ran to the open doors. A slightly built crewman emerged on his side of the chopper as he was quickly joined by the other wounded and walking wounded. He turned the LT over to the medics in the bay, confirmed that his other Marines were on board and turned to leave.

“Get on board Sargent – there’s room for you.” Earl turned towards the sound of a woman’s voice . . . “Ma’am, I’m fine. I need to take command of this company and move down the road. Take care of my LT and get the hell outta here!”

“Sargent, your ass and thighs are covered in blood. You’ve obviously taken some shrapnel – we need to get you to the hospital with the rest of your men.” She was getting impatient – time on the ground was not a good thing!

“Sorry Ma’am, I need to get rolling . . .” and Earl turned to leave.

“Sargent, get your fuckin’ ass on board – NOW! That’s a direct order!” She was now well and truly pissed and she wasn’t going to take shit from this asshole who obviously needed medical attention.”

Earl drew up short – looked at her tabs and noticed she was a Captain – and she was way past angry. “Roger that Ma’am – on my way.” Turning to his Corporal he shouted “All yours Corporal, keep heading towards the city center. I’ll fill command in on what’s happened. You know the job – do it!” And with that Earl turned and boarded allowing the chopper to head to the hospital.

Earl watched the crew working on Charlie – “How’s the LT doing? What are his chances?” A medic spoke to him as he continued to work. “His right leg is toast. The CAT saved him – his pulse is weak but steady, we’re giving him blood now. He’s not in shock , we’ll do our best to keep it that way. We’ve given him a cocktail to fight off infection and ease his pain. He’ll be in the OR within 20 minutes – well within the “Golden Hour”, I’d say his chances are very good!” The medic turned to see if Earl had any other questions – only to see that he had passed out – obviously losing more blood than they had thought. The medics worked “around the horn” taking Earl next – stabilizing him and getting IVs started then continued until all had been stabilized. As the last pressure bandage was applied their wheels touched down.

Charlie was on the table within 50 minutes of his first wound. The final result was the loss of his leg just below the knee. While he had a host of other penetrating wounds, he would heal fully. Twelve hours later he was on an angel flight to Germany and he arrived at Walter Reed 48 hours later.

Earl spent three weeks in hospital in country before we was fit to return to his company. “the dawn” was down to a mop up operation and there was a brand new, crisp 2nd Lieutenant to break in. “Back to normal” thought Earl as he geared up for another trip outside the wire. This would be his last tour – this time next year he’d be back home for Christmas, a little worse for wear.

April 2050 – Office of Charlie Franklin

Charlie Franklin stood just a tad under six foot. He’d maintained his “fighting weight” of around 170 pounds. He’d worn his hair short all his adult life though now-a-days it was more “salt” than “salt and pepper”. His glasses rested above his forehead and were brought down when he needed to read the fine print – otherwise he hated glasses. And while he had crossed the 70s boundary, he still ran a couple miles a day and added a half hour of cross fit to balance things out. One of the “benefits” of America’s wars in the first half of the 21st century was the advancement of the technology prosthetics. And Charlie had taken full advantage of these advancements with three separate “legs” – one for every day, one for running and one for swimming. Bottom line, if you didn’t know he was missing a leg – other than a very slight limp, the average person simply couldn’t tell.

“So you’re Earl’s granddaughter – the infamous “E”! Glad to finally get to meet you.” Charlie leaned over and gave her a firm handshake. “You keepin’ an eye on that old grunt?” He gave her a big smile as he saw the confusion cross her face. “He’s been telling me about you for years – his Marine sniper granddaughter. Heard you had your ass handed to you – you doin’ OK?”

“Yes sir, comin’ around. I should be 100% by the end of the summer; at least that’s the plan! May I ask, how do you even know Gramps?” She knew she was being led down a path, now she was curious where this was headed. “Why don’t you take a look at my “bragin’ wall” over there, see if you see anyone familiar.”

E rose and walked to a section of Charlie’s office that was obviously his “braggin’ wall” – she saw a typical array – photos, displayed medals (including the Purple Heart, Silver Star and Bronze Star with a V for valor). It was obvious he’d been a Marine, most of the photos showed equipment that E was familiar with. One caught her eye – an officer and NCO both standing in front of a MRAP. The officer was obviously a much younger version of Charlie . . . the NCO was none other than Sargent Earl Franks!

“You two were a bit younger then.” E said, turning back to the table and taking her seat, a smile playing across her face.

“That we were, that we were. That’s about a week before your grandpa saved my ass . . .” It was the perfect entry for Charlie to share how Earl had saved his but “way back when”. . . . . .

“The last thing I remember is your grandpa chucking me in the Dustoff. I woke up a couple days later in Germany. I was back stateside in another two day. I caught up with him on the net a few weeks later – we’ve been friends ever since. We probably have only seen each other a couple times a year – yet every time we get together, it’s as though no time has passed. He’s become a good friend. Which brings us to why you’re here! About eight months ago he showed up here at the office. Said he wanted to talk to be about something he called “the slide” and that he had a business proposition for me. The rest, as they say, is history. I suppose technically – this company is now more yours than mine.” Charlie smiled and sat back, watching the emotions play across E’s face.

“Well sir, not sure about that. Gramps never let on you two even knew each other. This morning he called and said you had a shipment for us and that we were supposed to come, meet you and pick this mysterious shipment up. Sounded like it would take a day or so? Meantime, Brad and I need to drive up to Cambridge to pick up my sister Linda. Seems that Minneapolis is circling the crapper and Gramps made it perfectly clear he didn’t want her near the city. I suspect we’ll head up there this afternoon and, depending on weather, be back tonight or early tomorrow.” It was E’s turn to sit back and wait.

“Yep, sounds about right. I gave Earl a call about 3AM this morning and rolled his ass out of bed. Minneapolis has been looking over the brink for a while – it’s just a matter of time. Not sure this is “it” but the city’s not doing well this morning. He said your sister was flying home today, I wanted to make sure I put a quick stop to that. You can head north and avoid the city entirely by heading up 169 to 95, then going east into Cambridge. That will keep you well away from the cities and still be an easy trip. Might take a bit longer, but with the crap going on in Minneapolis right now, it’s a better choice. Now, let’s go see your shipment, we’re kitting it up right now.”

They all rose and headed back into the factory. Arriving at the shipping department, it was a shooter’s dream. They were surrounded by the countries most advanced firearms all being placed in a variety of shipping containers.

“These are yours.” Charlie said as he walked over of a half dozen pallets being loaded with crates. Looking to the side, E and Brad could see that each crate held six brand new M4-Gs, DT’s latest offering in lightweight, battletested carbines. Running the numbers – 6 weapons per crate, 8 crates per pallet, 6 pallets . . . E was staring at 288 weapons – this was their mystery shipment, and the beginning of their army’s armory.

“I just have one more question Charlie – I brought a Jeep – not a semi. How am I supposed to get them home?” I was fairly confident she was just getting part of the story.

Charlie simply nodded to the midsized panel truck in the loading bay. No markings, just a plain white truck. “She’s part of your company’s inventory now. We’ll have her loaded by the time you two get back. I have an afternoon conference call scheduled with Earl and Ann – I’m sure we’ll have more to talk about by the time you two get back in the morning.” Charlie and Earl had run a number of ideas to ground over the past 8 months. The result had been the sale of the company, the earmarking of Ann as the “company” manager for Earl, the need to begin building armory for Earl’s soon-to-be army . . . and a million other details. It had been a hectic winter – summer promised to be even more so.

“Why don’t you two head out, I’ll make sure your shipment is ready to roll tomorrow. We’ll lay out the next steps when you return – fair enough?”

“Yes sir – fair enough.” And with that E and Brad headed for their jeep and the next leg of this little adventure Gramps had sent them on.

There would be more down the road . . .